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Photo: EPA
The Temple Mount in Jerusalem
Photo: EPA
Alex Fishman
In battle against Jerusalem recognition, Palestinians united by Al-Aqsa
Analysis: Both Hamas and Palestinian President Abbas are trying to lead the national conflict to the religious plane and to the Temple Mount. As far as they’re concerned, an American Embassy in Jerusalem is not a diplomatic decision, it’s a crusader takeover of Al-Aqsa.
This script has been repeating itself for years: Four possible conflict areas—Jerusalem, the West Bank, Gaza and Israel’s Arabs; and three possible cases of deterioration—mass riots, isolated riots with terror attacks in Jerusalem and elsewhere, and a deterioration to an overall conflict in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

 

 

Every state of alert has its own exotic name. The army, the Shin Bet and the police have exercised these situations numerous times. As always, it will begin with days of rage, which were declared by members of Fatah’s Tanzim faction on Monday, and from now on, everything’s possible. The major fire is expected to erupt after Friday’s prayers at the mosques. The only thing that changes in this script is the number of casualties on both sides.

 

The Al-Aqsa Mosque. The codeword uniting the ranks in the Palestinian society
The Al-Aqsa Mosque. The codeword uniting the ranks in the Palestinian society

 

In the current conflict over the possibility that the Americans would move their embassy to Jerusalem or recognize the city as Israel’s capital, Israel has a small advantage. The riots following the placement of metal detectors at the Temple Mount in July exposed to the defense establishment the forces driving the riots in Jerusalem, which is at the center of the conflict again.

 

The city’s religious leadership led the street, got Israel to fold in the metal detectors affair and essentially replaced the political leadership which isn’t present in Jerusalem due to Israeli restrictions.

 

This time too, there is no doubt that the religious leadership would lead the riots, as the diplomatic crisis has already taken on a religious flavor. Last Friday, at the mosques, the preachers repeated the battle’s slogan: A Muslim Jerusalem is both the beginning and the end of every agreement.

 

Hamas, which is inflaming the tensions against the backdrop of its 30th anniversary celebrations, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who is in a deep crisis with the American administration, are both trying to lead the national conflict to the religious level and to the Temple Mount. Al-Aqsa is the codeword uniting the ranks in Palestinian society. As far as they’re concerned, an American embassy in Jerusalem is not a diplomatic decision, it’s a crusader takeover of Al-Aqsa. Here, logic no longer has any sway.

 

Riots in Jerusalem following placement of metal detectors on Temple Mount in July  (Photo: Reuters)
Riots in Jerusalem following placement of metal detectors on Temple Mount in July (Photo: Reuters)

 

The Trump administration dealt Abbas a blow twice in the past few days: Once, when it extended the permit of the Palestinian mission in Washington by only three months instead of six; and the second time, when the American plan to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital was raised. General Majif Faraj, the Palestinian intelligence chief, failed in his mission in Washington this week. Abbas, therefore, has no other choice but to let the street talk.

 

Moreover, Palestinian Authority officials are already talking about relaxing their demands from Hamas on security issues, which Israel considers a red line. As far as Hamas is concerned, a violent conflict could make the frustrated Gazan public forget the failure of the reconciliation talks with Fatah.

 

But this story includes another inciting element, which is the pouring of large quantities of fuel in the form of money into the flames—the Turkish representatives in Israel. Not only is President Recep Tayyip Erdogan still hosting Hamas’ West Bank headquarters in Istanbul, he is also threatening to sever ties with Israel should the US recognize Jerusalem as its capital. At the same time, he is holding onto institutions in Jerusalem whose sole purpose is to bolster the Muslim Brotherhood in the city.

 

Several Turkish organizations are active in east Jerusalem under the guise of private charity organizations. They are led by al-Qandeel, an organization affiliated with IHH, which we all remember from the Marmara affair, and the Mirsimis organization, which presents itself as a private organization but is funded from government funds.

 

Al-Qandeel, for example, offer financial support to the Murabitun (“defenders of the Temple Mount”) organization, which was outlawed in Israel. In the metal detectors riots, al-Qandeel transferred money and food to the rioters and provided them with transportation. Mirsimis is connected to the activities of the Islamic Movement’s northern branch in Israel. Not wanting to mess with the Turkish sultan, Israel has so far avoided touching these movements.

 

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